Could you be the one to outwit and defeat cyber-criminals and help protect the UK’s critical infrastructure? Cyber security is the protection of critical information and IT systems from digital spying and attack. The IT infrastructures at most risk are in government, military, medical, corporate and financial organisations. And the risk of digital attacks is now considered to be a major threat to national security so this is both a new and fast-growing career sector. Read more …

What are the benefits of working in cyber security?

Salary – One of the benefits of working in cyber-security is the salary. At the age of perhaps just 18, you could potentially earn £15-£20k per annum on an apprenticeship with generous future prospects.

Future skilling – In this emerging industry, you will develop the advanced technical skills needed to prevent cybercrime, defend against attacks and sources of threat, decrypt data, untangle, clarify and resolve malware issues – all of which will stand you in good stead for a future career in the sector.

Crime prevention – Another benefit of this career is the opportunity to simply help protect customer data and preserve the security and integrity of business operations.

Exciting new sector – And there’s also the opportunity to work at the forefront of technology in a new industry using sophisticated methods of detecting, monitoring and preventing potential cyber-attacks.

What does the job involve?

Solutions – Being in cyber-security means being an information security professional working as part of a team to identify potential threats and design solutions to cyber-crime.

Analysis – It involves routine systems monitoring, using data log analysis to record the results as well as learning how to perform the initial diagnosis of identified incidents and taking actions to swiftly resolve potential threats.

Reporting – As well as maintaining these records, you would be expected to be able to communicate the status and any identified risks to management clearly, unambiguously and in a non-technical manner.

ICT support – Within the business, there will also be IT security compliance teams who will require support with patching and with software upgrades to relevant internet and intranet sites.

External contacts – And you would need to be able to work with strategic contacts – supporting security investigations, for example.

Upskilling – In view of the fast-moving pace of the industry, the role is one in which you can expect to be continuously acquiring relevant knowledge of best practice in technical standards, data protection and cyber security processes relating to the network including a wide range of common attack methods and the tools, techniques and procedures used to counteract them.

Client contact – It is also a customer service role as you could expect to have the opportunity to work with clients from a variety of backgrounds and industries, providing an efficient and great customer service.

Legalities – You would be expected to learn about the regulatory standards surrounding information security and assist with raising awareness of those standards within the organisation in which you were working. In fact, there are now opportunities for specialist lawyers in this emerging career sector as well.

What general employability skills are ideal for the role?

Learner – If you are considering cyber-security as a potential career, you should ideally be enthusiastic, open to new ideas and keen to learn.

Self-starter – It should suit you if you are self-motivated, able to work independently and use your own initiative.

Team player – You will also need to be a great team player as you will need to work with – and support – others across the business.

Make a difference – Thinking back to the crime prevention nature of the role, it will also be beneficial is you have a desire to make a real difference in the work you do.

Attention to detail – Working in cyber-security suits those with a strong attention to detail and an ability to work to deadlines.

Methodical – Ideally highly organised, you should also be able to follow instructions, complete tasks and work to deadlines.

Analytical – You should be able to think analytically and have a natural flair for solving problems.

Customer Service – as well as the above, it’s desirable that you are comfortable delivering a high standard of support to IT software teams, security colleagues, management, external clients and professionals.

What specific skills are needed?

Interest in IT – Ideally you should have a passion for technology, an active interest in software, cyber, information systems, security and data plus an excellent knowledge of all Microsoft Office applications.

Disaster-prevention – Uniquely, this sort of role requires a desire to prevent disasters before they happen.

Communication – You’d need to be able to articulate complex issues clearly – in writing and verbally – to a wide range of people in both business and technical roles. It also requires excellent influencing skills.

Confidentiality – Understanding of how to deal with confidential and sensitive information.

What qualifications do you need to work in cyber-security?

Graduate employers will expect at least a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology or equivalent – ideally a Masters.

However, the apprenticeship pathway starts earlier and requires A-levels in subjects which show analytical capability – such as in ICT, business, STEM subjects or computing. The BTEC Extended Diploma in IT is another option.

It is usually desirable for all roles – often essential – that you have 5 GCSE’s or equivalent including STEM subjects and English.

And, in exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to demonstrate your suitability in other ways, such as 2 years work experience in a related role or an apprenticeship in a similar subject – at least the level below the planned programme.

Which academic courses might be worth a look?

There are not many specialist cyber courses available locally yet, the nearest being BSc (Hons) Forensic Computing and Security at UWE and the BSc (Hons) Applied Cyber Security just over the bridge at USW.

However, UCW Weston offers BSc (Hons) Applied Computing. And our big four offer a range of computing-related degrees particularly things like Software Engineering, Computing or IT Management at UWE, and Computer Science at University of Bristol, UWE and University of Bath.

There are also Foundation Degrees in Communication and Computer Networks as well as Computing and IT at City of Bristol College plus an HND in Computing and System Development at SGS College.

At level 3, SGS College also have a Cyber Security Academy. And there’s the Cyber Security EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) offered, for example, by Digitech Studio School.

And what are the apprenticeship options?

QA Apprenticeships specialise in IT and cyber security training locally, offering opportunities at both level 3 and 4 with associated qualifications including the Diploma in Information Security Professional and the Microsoft Certified Professional.

And UCW, Weston also have a new degree apprenticeship in Digital and Technology Solutions which incorporates a full honours degree delivered in partnership with UWE.

What opportunities are there locally?

There are a growing number of local employers who value cyber-specific and computing qualifications. Many will be at degree-level, but this year we have seen adverts for local cyber-related apprenticeships with Capgemini, with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Estate and Nuclear Supply Chain and with other critical infrastructure sectors. And Leonardo Mw in Stoke Gifford are currently advertising their 2018 level 3 cyber security apprenticeship. There are also career prospect summaries on the Cyber Security Challenge website:

And finally …

The Qufaro Cyber Security EPQ (extended project qualification) is out at the moment., but hurry – applications close on Sunday 12th. More details and how to apply on here – It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started.

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